Exams and the Academic Honor Code

At Bowdoin, we operate with an Academic Honor Code and Social Code that students overwhelmingly respect and adhere to. A number of students cite its existence as an important consideration in their decision to attend the College.

Nevertheless, instances of cheating do occur. Over the years, faculty members and members of the Judicial Board, which adjudicates cases of academic dishonesty, have suggested that faculty employ proactive best practices, which can support our students in making good choices and lessen the likelihood of cheating.  Many of these practices, however, are predicated on faculty (or designated proctors) and students sharing a physical space.  

The context of online learning requires that we develop proactive best practices that reflect our changed circumstances.  To that end, we offer the following recommendations:

  • Remind your students of Bowdoin's Academic Honor Code.
  • Continue to offer accommodations to students who request them.
  • Bear in mind that students may have a number of responsibilities and distractions at home that make it difficult for them to sit for exams at set times.
  • Consider offering a generous window of time during which students can decide when to start a timed exam. Consider, too, offering students a choice among several types of assignments to demonstrate their learning.
  • If you require set start and end times for exams, consider offering the exam on Zoom, so you can be present to signal the importance of academic integrity and to answer any questions students may have.
  • Decide in advance which resources students will and will not be permitted to use and clearly communicate this information to students well in advance. For instance, perhaps you will allow open books and notebooks, but not Google searches. 
  • Inform students beforehand if they are expected to submit images of their actual or on-line “scratch paper.”
  • Have students sign and submit a statement confirming their adherence to the Academic Honor Code. [Some faculty include language along the lines of the following on their exam, “By signing this examination, I acknowledge my responsibility and commitment to the Academic Honor Code.”]
  • If you use plagiarism-detection tools, inform your students — both on your syllabus and in class — that you will do so and how such tools work.
  • If you allow collaborative work at certain times and forbid it at other times in your course, be clear about this distinction and explain the difference between collaboration and collusion.